In the middle of April 2023, violent armed clashes broke out in Khartoum, capital city of Sudan, between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
This development accentuated the suffering of millions both in a country and region already affected by drought, natural hazards, and conflicts causing a massive displacement.
From the first moment the conflict broke out, the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department has been working to ensure the safety and security of EU staff.
People who had sought refuge in Sudan when conflict broke out in their own countries, now tried desperately to get back – despite any lingering dangers back home. Sudanese citizens saw their lives upended from one day to the next.
Humanitarian organisations lost staff – 5 humanitarian aid workers have lost their lives until now due to the fighting – and their stocks were looted.
Against this backdrop, the EU has stepped up its humanitarian assistance to help those most in need.
Here are 5 ways we achieve this:
1. Setting up a Humanitarian Air Bridge to deliver essential supplies
On 10 May, the EU set up a Humanitarian Air Bridge to provide 30 tonnes of essential items, including water, sanitation and hygiene as well as shelter equipment. They were transported from the warehouses of the United Nations in Dubai to Port Sudan.
The operation was organised with the support of the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD), managed by the World Food Programme (WFP). Upon arrival, the supplies were handed over to UNICEF and WFP.
The Humanitarian Air Bridge is organised in the framework of the European Humanitarian Response Capacity, a tool designed to fill gaps in the humanitarian response to natural hazards and human-induced disasters.
Additional flights are expected to take place in the coming days.
2. Providing emergency assistance to the region
To respond to the deteriorating situation in Sudan, the European Commission has €73 million allocated in humanitarian assistance for Sudan in 2023.
The European Commission is in contact with its humanitarian partners to ensure planned and existing programmes will be adapted where needed to the new situation and priorities.
In addition, emergency support is provided to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Already in April 2023, following the outbreak of violence in Sudan, the European Commission allocated €200,000 for immediate relief and first aid assistance to people injured or exposed to high risk in the capital Khartoum and other affected states.
This EU funding supported the Sudanese Red Crescent Society with first aid, evacuation services, and psychosocial support, helping around 70,000 people in Khartoum, Northern State, North Kordofan, South Darfur and North Darfur. We allocated an additional €200,000 to the Egyptian Red Crescent Society, in support of Sudanese refugees in Egypt.
More recently, the EU allocated €200,000 to the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, for refugees from Sudan and Ethiopians returning to their country from Sudan following the outbreak of violence, and €200,000 to the South Sudan Red Cross Society for the same purpose.
3. Rapidly deploying EU humanitarian experts to border crossing points
In a rapid, coordinated operation, we deployed experts from all our field offices in countries bordering Sudan (Ethiopia, South Sudan, Chad, Egypt, and the Central African Republic) to the borders with Sudan.
EU humanitarian experts assess the situation of the refugees and returnees, and explore, with our humanitarian partners on the ground, the best way forward.
In addition, our security experts in headquarters continuously provide security assessments, analyse and advice, to enable the safe and secure deployment of our staff in this complex environment.
Here are some of their stories:
In Chad, around 40,000 people have already arrived from Sudan, including Sudanese citizens and Chadian returnees.
International organisation and NGOs, including the Un Refugee Agency and WFP, are gradually organising the provision of aid, despite facing immense challenges such as the lack of fuel.
In South Sudan, refugees and returnees gather in places like the Renk Transit Centre and Palouch airport (in the northern Upper Nile region), waiting to be transferred to other parts of the country.
In the centre, basic assistance is delivered to more than 7,000 people. Thousands of others at the airport face harsh conditions, stranded under the sun, with no shelter, no health or food support, and little water waiting for government-organised domestic flights.
4. Mobilising the EU Civil Protection Mechanism
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated on 23 April. To-date, 6 evacuation flights have been operated under the Mechanism.
These flights were organised by Germany, the Netherlands, and France. In total, 769 people were repatriated through EU-funded flights, including 455 citizens from EU Member States and participating states in the Mechanism and 314 third-country nationals.
5. Advocating for unimpeded humanitarian access and compliance with international humanitarian law
Since the first moment the conflict broke out, Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič stressed – along with High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell and other high-ranking EU officials – the need for the firm respect for international humanitarian law.
They called parties to guarantee safe, unimpeded and uninterrupted humanitarian access for humanitarian actors to resume and ensure life-saving activities.
The killing of humanitarian aid workers in the Sudan violence is unacceptable. The EU has been consistently calling out for the protection of all civilians, including humanitarian aid workers.
Story by Yolanda Valassopoulou, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.
Publication date: 15/05/2023